The latest album from everyone's favourite electronicists, Depeche Mode, is out today on Mute. If you haven't already, check out this excellent and sinister video from Californian-born (and strangely-named) director Patrick Daughters for their recent single, "Wrong". Below, Esquire's music critic Dan Cairns posits why the band remain excluded from the corral of British legends. Could it be an old-fashioned case of Essexism?
Depeche Mode. One of the biggest live acts in the world, with more than 100m record sales to their name, about to reach their 30th anniversary and boasting a handful of albums - Some Great Reward, Music For The Masses, Violator and Songs Of Faith And Devotion - that contain some of the darkest, most menacing and powerful electro-pop ever made. Not to mention a history of addiction, bickering, divorce and self-destruction to make biographers drool.
Why, then, do they remain just outside the pantheon, no matter how many platinum discs and classic albums they've notched up? Is it their roots in lightweight and tinny synth-pop? ("Just Can't Get Enough" to "Personal Jesus" is a big leap.) Or snobbery about their Essex background; the suspicion that these new-town lads couldn't possibly be capable of gravitas? Or the fact that they were, for a period, the biggest British band in America, and treated not only as one of the world's most compelling live acts, but as songwriters of twisted yet chart-friendly genius - perhaps putting our noses out of joint in the process?
Perhaps Martin Gore’s penchant for make-up and what comes very close to cross-dressing (to say nothing of the often bracingly pervy nature of his lyrics) renders him suspect; ditto Dave Gahan’s resolutely non-pop-star mien, which suggests to some a lager-swilling scaffolder more than it does a singer with one of the most haunting blue-eyed-soul voices in pop (speaking of underrated).
For the full review, see the May issue of Esquire, out now.